Regional coverage of a couple of important National League division rivalries on Monday night’s MLB Network coverage as the Washington Nationals host the Atlanta Braves and the Cincinnati Reds host the St. Louis Cardinals.

Matchup: Atlanta Braves at Washington Nationals

Date/Time: September 8, 7:05 p.m. ET

TV: MLB Network

MLB Betting Odds From 5Dimes Sportsbook

Probable Starters: ATL: Mike Minor (6-9, 4.65) v. WSH: Doug Fister (12-6, 2.66)

Moneyline: Washington -131

Total: 7.5

If the Atlanta Braves want to have any shot at the NL East, a win in the series opener on Monday night is imperative. The Washington Nationals have a chance at retribution against the Braves, who have spent the last two Septembers burying them. The Nationals lead was extended to seven games on Sunday. The Braves also fell out of the second wild card spot by virtue of Sunday’s loss, so this is a big series in that regard as well. The Braves are 9-4 against the Nationals this season.

Mike Minor will get the ball for the Braves and his team needs him. Minor was supposed to be the ace of the staff this season, but shoulder discomfort in Spring Training and a rough middle part of the season have turned Minor into a back of the rotation guy. However, Minor has been very good over his last five starts with a 2.52 ERA and a .183 batting average against. That stretch comes on the heels of a 10-start sample size where Minor posted a 7.33 ERA. He’s turned it around in time for the playoff push and he has pitched at least seven innings over his last four starts.

In perhaps the best transaction of the offseason, the Nationals acquired Doug Fister and he has been spectacular since returning from a lat strain. Fister’s season didn’t begin until May 9, but he already has 12 wins, which is tied for 15th in the National League, and he is 12-5 since his season debut. He was rocked by the Athletics, but Fister is 12-5 over his last 20 starts with a 2.40 ERA. Fister has only walked 18 batters in his 135.1 innings pitched this season.

Minor will be facing the Nationals for the 11th time. He’s 3-2 with a 4.64 ERA in his previous 10 starts. This season, Minor pitched extremely well over seven innings against the Nationals with a no-decision, but 11 strikeouts. The Braves are 11-11 in Minor’s 22 starts for a loss of 2.86 units.

Fister will be facing the Braves for the third time overall and second time this season. Fister gave up three runs on six hits in seven innings with the Tigers last season and threw eight shutout innings for the Nationals this season. The Nationals are 14-7 in Fister’s 21 starts for a profit of 4.76 units.

Free MLB Pick: Washington Nationals

Lay the price here. The Nationals are all too familiar with the Braves in September and it hasn’t been good. They have the upper hand here and a chance to put a real stranglehold on the division. A win here means that they would carry at least a six-game lead out of this series with just 16 games left for the Braves.

Matchup: St. Louis Cardinals at Cincinnati Reds

Date/Time: September 8, 7:10 p.m. ET

TV: MLB Network

MLB Betting Odds From 5Dimes Sportsbook

Probable Starters: STL: Shelby Miller (8-9, 4.00) v. CIN Dylan Axelrod (1-1, 3.18)

Moneyline: St. Louis -120

Total: 7.5

The St. Louis Cardinals have finished each month with a record of .500 or better. Their steady pace has paid off as they now lead the NL Central by 4.5 games over Pittsburgh and five games over Milwaukee, who has lost 14 of its last 17. The Cincinnati Reds have been steadily falling off the map as they are now just 16-32 since the All-Star Break. The Cardinals are just 34-36 away from home, but they have beaten the Reds in nine of the 12 meetings between the two teams this season.

Shelby Miller will try to build off of last week’s excellent start against the Pirates in this game. Miller has been much better since the All-Star Break, posting a 3.38 ERA in eight starts and one relief appearance. The Cardinals have only averaged 3.5 runs per start for Miller, but a declining strikeout rate and a rising walk rate have made things difficult for him this season. His last three outings have been quality starts, the first time that has happened this season for Miller.

The Reds got some terrible news about Homer Bailey, who needed surgery to repair a torn flexor tendon, and that put Dylan Axelrod into the rotation. Axelrod has made three starts for the Reds this season and has allowed six runs in 17 innings, but he has also struck out 19 batters. Between Triple-A Charlotte and Triple-A Louisville, Axelrod was 8-9 with a 4.01 ERA in 22 starts and two relief appearances.

Miller will be facing the Reds for the sixth time. In five previous starts, Miller is 1-2 with a 4.23 ERA. This season, Miller is 0-2 with a 5.73 ERA, allowing seven runs on 12 hits in 11 innings. The Cardinals are 12-15 in Miller’s 27 starts for a loss of 5.67 units. Axelrod has never faced the Cardinals in his Major League career. The Reds are 1-2 in Axelrod’s three starts for a loss of 0.98 units.

Free MLB Pick: St. Louis Cardinals

Shelby Miller has been better of late and Dylan Axelrod is a filler and his numbers are a bit of a mirage at the Major League level. The Cardinals are playing well right now and the Reds are just counting down the days to the end of the season.